This is Part Five of a series on Starting a Hyperlocal Blog. Please visit that page for links to the full series of articles.
How do you measure the success of your blog? There are lots of ways to do it: number of feed readers, number of comments, unique visitors, page views, and many more. This is something I’m still wrestling with on our four hyperlocal blogs: What should we consider a success? The end goal is to help Cari’s real estate business, but it’s often difficult to directly tie a client/closing to a blog. When Cari asks how her clients found her, one of the most common recent answers is, “You’re all over the Internet.”
Love the sentiment, and it tells me we’re doing something right … but what?!? Measuring the successes and failures of four new local blogs has been very frustrating. But measure we must. Unless you’re blogging without a purpose (some people do), you simply must know what’s working and what’s not.
My wife and I don’t consider ourselves experts on hyperlocal blogging. We’re still learning with each passing month. We’re still trying new content ideas, new marketing and outreach ideas. And the blogs are so new, I hesitate to draw any solid conclusions pro or con to what we’ve done. But I do think we’ve had a few successes to go along with several failures.
1.) Acquiring clients. I mentioned this briefly above: Cari has had 4-5 prospects/clients call her, and when she asks how they found her, they’ve said, “You’re all over the Internet.” Unless they can give us a more specific answer, I have to assume some of that is related to finding the blogs when using Google, Yahoo, or MSN Live search. Which leads to….
2.) Occasionally strong rankings for [cityname real estate] keywords. All four blogs have solid rankings in Yahoo for their primary keywords. All four have bounced in and out of Google’s upper echelon, which is no surprise. Volatility in Google is quite common for new sites. Each spot the blogs have high in the rankings is one spot a competing real estate agent doesn’t have.
3.) The baseball links. I mentioned the story in yesterday’s article about shooting some minor league baseball video and turning it into a few links to one of the local blogs. I want to do more of that when possible.
4.) Getting blog traffic by targeting keywords related to local news and local events. This has been one of the real revelations for me from our experiment: It’s often quite easy to get traffic by writing about things happening around town because people are actually searching for anything and everything under the sun. Let me explain with this example:
In late May, I wrote a post previewing a popular West Richland event called Hogs and Dogs. (Don’t laugh.) The event would happen on June 19. I didn’t think much of that blog post until I checked our Google Analytics in late June:
We weren’t breaking any traffic records before the event, but still … that spike shows a tenfold spike in traffic on the day before and the day of the event. And the majority of that was Google referral traffic. What were the keywords that drove all that traffic? Have a look:
That’s just the top ten. Get this: The top 22 keywords driving traffic were all related to Hogs and Dogs. The main takeaway for me here is that people are actively searching for hyperlocal information and content.
We’ve seen smaller spikes from writing about other local news and events on our four blogs. People want local content, and I count situations like this, where we gave them what they wanted (even if it didn’t lead to a real estate transaction) a success.
There are many. Some more important than others, but they all bother me to some degree. In no particular order:
1.) Having to temporarily use a .net domain for Pasco.
2.) Missing local events. We didn’t attend the two biggest events in the Tri-Cities each year: Hydroplane races on the Columbia Fair, and the Benton-Franklin Fair. Ugh. Some local journalists we are.
3.) Not writing frequently enough. We’ve had some stretches of 2-3 weeks without a post on one of the blogs. That doesn’t help from either a user or a search engine perspective.
4.) Cari being too busy to write much real estate content. This is a nice problem to have, but it still means the blogs are not as good and well-rounded as they should be.
(These next three are all related.)
5.) Not connecting with local people enough. Chatting with the Tri-Cities Flickr group has been good and enjoyable, but there are other ways we can be seeking out and connecting with local people, both online and offline.
6.) Not connecting with local bloggers. One of the primary rules of starting a blog is to get active in your blog community. We’ve done jacksquat on this point, and it shows in our lack of traffic, poor diversity of inbound links, and so forth.
7.) Not promoting the blogs offline hard enough. I have several ideas for this, like creating separate MOO mini-cards for each blog, so that we can give them out at local school/PTO events, at ballgames, and so forth.
Like any small business or small biz blogger, many of these failures are about one thing: time. Cari’s super busy with real estate, PTO, and being a mom. I’m busy with work, my U2 sites, my blogs, and being a dad. I’d like to find time to turn these failures into successes.
Most of us are new to hyperlocal blogging — or, at least to using hyperlocal blogs as a business tool. It’s such a young niche that we all get to write our own paths to success, and learn from each other along the way. As I said in the first post this week, my hope is that you’d learn something from seeing how we launched our local blogs — even if you learn to do things differently!
I know this much: Writing this series has been educational for me. It’s forced me to step back and think about why we made certain decisions and analyze the impact of those decisions. It’s forced me to take a Big Picture look at what we’ve done right, and where we’ve fallen short. I think we’ll be better local bloggers moving forward. I hope you will be, too.